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The Forgotten Tool of Training

Updated: Apr 30, 2023

There are many pieces of equipment, gadgets, supplements and many more tools that claim to help you achieve your training goals. However, there is one forgotten training tool that is so undervalued; and this is the training log. In my opinion, the biggest reason why training logs are so important is that they help to track progress and the amount of work being performed.

What makes us progress in the gym is simply doing more work over a given period of time. This is a simple way to describe the concept of progressive overload (which will be blog post in the future). Increasing the amount of work done in training can come in a variety of ways: increasing reps, number of sets, weight on the bar, adding super sets to increase the density of work performed, and many other ways. However, if you do not know how many sets or reps you performed, or how much weight you lifted, how can you be sure if you are increasing your work from week to week? Here is an example:

Let’s say I am doing a program that calls for 4 sets of 8 reps in the squat. If I don’t have a training log to track my workouts from week to week, I may fall into the trap of just guessing how much to add to the bar. You may end up doing the following:

Week 1: 4 sets of 8 at 185 lbs Week 2: 4 sets of 8 at 175 lbs

At this point, you forget how much weight you squatted in week 1 and 2. You approach the bar and say to yourself oh well, go big or go home, and you do the following.

Week 3: attempt 4 sets of 8 at 205 lbs; but can only squeeze out 5 reps each set.

With a training log, you will be able to strategically do the following.

Week 1: 4 sets of 8 with 185 lbs week 2: 4 sets of 8 with 185 lbs

Now that you know the last two squat sessions you did the same weight, you can increase the work performed by increasing the weight of the last set.

Week 3: 3 sets of 8 with 185 lbs, 1 set of 8 at 205 lbs

We can also look at these mathematically using total volume. Total volume is equal to the amount of sets x reps x weight used (another term for this is tonnage).Think of this as way to quantify how much work you are doing during your training.

Here is the total volume for each of the following weeks without a log.

Week 1: 5,920 lbs Week 2: 5,600 lbs Week 3: 4,100 lbs Total: 15,620 lbs Now for the volume for the weeks with a training log.

Week 1: 5,920 lbs Week 2: 5,920 lbs Week 3: 6,080 lbs Total: 17,920 lbs

As you can see, over the course of 3 weeks, the total weight lifted is much greater when one takes the time and effort to track their lifts accordingly. This is just one way in which we can see an example of progressive overload with the help of logging your training.

This also has major implications if you are a strength coach or personal trainer. By monitoring and tracking your client’s progress, you will know how and when to appropriately progress them. This will help them achieve their goals way more efficiently than if you were to guess how to prescribe their training.

There is no one way to keep a log. You can use your phone, excel, or a notebook. Training logs are so helpful and important because we can keep track of our progress. Any progress is progress, no matter how small, and even the smallest victories only help us to love the process of training more and more.

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